Pubes and Pits – Hair or Bare?

References can be found at the end of the post

For those who haven’t already been exposed to its glory, Unicorn Claws has a sister blog (Both written by Shannon Darby) called Body Hair Love Affair (also available on Instagram and Facebook). You will find much more entries on the subject there, and they will often be shared on here. However, I felt the subject of female body hair needed to be tackled as a part of this blog independently. As per the title, in this post, I will be mainly addressing armpit and pubic hair.

This may come as a shock to some, but women have body hair! I’m not talking about the fine little hairs that cover almost all of our body (Believe it or not, humans have the same number of hair follicles as apes), but thicker, darker, collected hair. On our legs, under our arms, around our genitals, sometimes around our nipples, on our face and chests. SHOCK! HORROR! The reason it has this ugly effect is we in western cultures have essentially been told that body hair is gross and to remove it. My point is simply this – it’s not gross, we don’t need to remove it. If you want to, go ahead! But don’t judge others for choosing otherwise.

Biology and Origins of Hair

Hair is in our biology. Whether you ascribe to the scientific theory of evolution or believe in a divine creator, the fact is it is there. But why? For those who believe in a divine creator, I’m going to have to leave that between you and your chosen deity. However, from a more educated standpoint, scientists are actually highly divided as to why we still have body hair. From our first venture out of the trees onto the African plains we would have been covered head to toe in thick furry hair, as are our primate cousins. Then at some point, we started to shed down. The general scientific consensus as to why the early humans shed their hair is, in a nutshell, the need to keep cool on long journeys across the savanna – the absence of hair allows our naked skin to sweat, producing moisture that can then evaporate and regulate body temperature. This is explained extremely well by Dr Alice Roberts (One of my personal favourite kick-ass female scientists) in The Incredible Human Journey and also briefly by Mariette DiChristina on The Scientific American. Others ideas published by the Scientific American include semi-aquatic early humans, and to assist in the riding of lice and bacteria. But as they seem to be earlier deductions my personal opinions follow the former.

So then why do we still grow prominent hairs in certain areas? As previously mentioned it is a hot debate, but the biggest theories seem to revolve around sex and cleanliness. Yep, you read that right, hair is biologically sexy. As most of this hair development happens in puberty it leads most to believe it’s the pheromones we produce and that are carried away from the body by hair that attract us to one another and help us ‘sniff out’ a good person to get sexy with. Even today our sense of smell is highly involved in the attraction process. I know this might gross a lot of us out, I mean I can’t remember the last time I inhaled the mess of body odour on public transport and thought “Hells yes, break me off a piece of that!”. But I certainly do find the smell of some people precious. When I hug my mother, for example, I often feel comfort as I sense her smell, and quite honestly, I love the smell of my partner after he’s been exercising. But don’t just trust my instincts, it’s science! The other cleanliness theory holds that the hairs channel away germs, bacteria and little pests from sensitive areas. I can image the early, naked humans being quite thankful for a hairy patch ‘down there’ stopping nasty bugs from crawling up inside them. I cross my legs tightly just at the thought!

Hair Removal – A Social Condition

Sure we no longer have the issue of creepy crawlies nesting in out private parts and tend to, at least overtly, use other methods of finding a partner. But does that mean we should remove this hair? Some actually argue that it is bad for us and by removing hair we are exposing ourselves to nasty bacteria, skin conditions and even cancer (although I can’t find any substantial research on that one). But what I have found is that the removal of body hair is for purely social reasons and it started by a few companies wanting to make some money!

In America, this started in 1915, before this a bit of pit fuzz was seen as completely normal if seen at all due to the modesty standards of the time. Author and journalist Cecil Adams writes this so perfectly on The Straight Dope I’m going to directly quote it:

…U.S. women were browbeaten into shaving underarm hair by a sustained marketing assault that began in 1915. (Leg hair came later.) The aim of… the Great Underarm Campaign was to inform American womanhood of a problem that till then it didn’t know it had, namely unsightly underarm hair. To be sure, women had been concerned about the appearance of their hair since time immemorial, but (sensibly) only the stuff you could see. Prior to World War I this meant scalp and, for an unlucky few, facial hair. Around 1915, however, sleeveless dresses became popular, opening up a whole new field of female vulnerability for marketers to exploit…. the underarm campaign began in May, 1915, in Harper’s Bazaar, a magazine aimed at the upper crust. The first ad ‘featured a waist-up photograph of a young woman who appears to be dressed in a slip with a toga-like outfit covering one shoulder. Her arms are arched over her head revealing perfectly clear armpits. The first part of the ad read “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable
hair.

From the May 1915 issue of Harper’s Bazaar (Click for larger image):

Harper's Bazzare 1915

In the UK it happened a little later, just before the second world war, but for the exact same reasons. Here is ad from a British newspaper from 1938

UK advert for hair removal

The Smelly Myth

Does having hair make someone more smelly? Basically, no.

All humans produce body odour. If you have hair under your arms or on your pubic regions it channels this smell away from the body and sticks to the hair or our clothes. If you don’t have hair there, the sweat sits on your skin and can even cause you to smell a little more. However, as long as you wash and deodorise, there is no difference.

It’s a Choice

The bottom line is that whether or not someone chooses to remove their hair has absolutely nothing to do with anyone except the person on whom the hair grows. It makes someone no more or less of a feminist or feminine. Hairy folk won’t pollute the air in elevators, trains or buses, and I think we are all adult enough to realise it’s not contagious. It is a personal choice and one I believe we should all be a little more informed about. You have probably had enough of this post now, but stay tuned for more including medical conditions that increase hair growth.

Here are some pictures, just to prove the point that hair can be extremely beautiful! To keep this family/work safe I will just show those of armpit hair. (See the Body Hair Love Affair blog for more)

article-2600074-1CF0C43F00000578-315_634x423

article-2600074-1CF0C44300000578-544_634x423

article-2600074-1CF0C45700000578-77_634x474

Screenshot_2015-07-18-22-57-37-1 (2)

Madge

References:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/continuum-of-change/
http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/06/still-pubic-armpit-hair/
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/54/whats-the-purpose-of-pubic-hair
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/questions/question/1757/
http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/whats-point-pubic-hair
http://www.alternet.org/doctor-pubic-hair-exists-reason-our-obsession-hairless-genitals-must-end-0
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126935.000-men-smell-of-cheese-and-women-of-onions/
http://www.menshealth.com/sex-women/qa-why-do-we-have-pubic-hair
https://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2009/02/why-humans-alone-have-pubic-ha.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocrine_sweat_gland
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eccrine_sweat_gland
http://www.wired.com/2015/04/hair-only-in-some-places/
http://www.livescience.com/17459-human-body-hair-parasite-detection.html
http://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/5217/what-is-the-armpit-hair-for
http://history.barnard.edu/sites/default/files/inline/kirstenhansenthesis.pdf
http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/05/24/anxiety-about-objectionable-hair-money-in-someones-pocket/
http://mentalfloss.com/article/22511/when-did-women-start-shaving-their-pits
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/625/who-decided-women-should-shave-their-legs-and-underarms

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2 thoughts on “Pubes and Pits – Hair or Bare?

  1. Great post! Love it! I am “shaver” and that’s my choice. But I fully support the hair move and I hope more people become more comfortable with it. I love that there is no hate here for “shavers”. Most posts find it difficult not to put us down. So it’s nice.

    Liked by 1 person

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